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7 April, 2021 - 12:38 By Tony Quested

Illumina hits record Q1 revenue and fights US trade chiefs over GRAIL

Illumina, whose European research HQ is in Cambridge, has posted record Q1 revenues for 2021 in its preliminary results and forecasts a major increase in full-year revenue growth.

The company is also fighting opposition by US trade chiefs to its proposed $8 billion acquisition of GRAIL, claiming the authorities could derail potential cancer cures.

On the finance front, and subject to quarter-end closing adjustments, Illumina expects to report Q1 2021 revenue of around $1.085 billion compared to $859 million in the first quarter of 2020. This represents year-on-year revenue growth of approximately 26 per cent for the quarter. For fiscal year 2021, Illumina now expects revenue growth in the range of 25-28 per cent on 2020.

The company’s Q1 surge was driven by several key factors. It reveals record orders of approximately $1.4bn in the quarter and sequencing revenue growth of some 28 per cent year-on-year.

Sequencing consumables growth of some 25 per cent compared to the prior year period demonstrated a solid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the strength of the core business. 

Most customers are now said to be at or above pre-COVID activity levels. COVID-19 surveillance revenues for sequencing consumables were approximately $20m in the quarter.

Sequencing instrument growth of approximately 120 per cent reflected a strong performance across all instrument categories. The mid-throughput category achieved another record quarter in placements. 

Some customers built additional capacity for COVID-19 surveillance work and accelerated instrument purchases, which resulted in approximately $35m of incremental instrument revenue in the quarter.

Francis deSouza, President and CEO, said: “Our core business is exceptionally strong and growing ahead of our expectations. This is reflected in our outstanding preliminary first quarter revenue and, as a result, we are raising our 2021 revenue guidance. 

“We are seeing broad-based acceleration across our core clinical and research applications as more patients, physicians and researchers than ever access the benefits of next generation sequencing. In addition, we are experiencing increased demand for COVID surveillance globally due to the critical role that Illumina’s next generation sequencing technology plays in the fight against this pandemic.”

Illumina also confirms that it disagrees with, and will oppose, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s challenge to its previously announced acquisition of GRAIL, a pre-commercial company founded to accelerate early screening of cancer. 

Illumina will pursue its right to proceed with the transaction, the impact of which would accelerate the adoption of a breakthrough multi-cancer early detection blood test.

Cancer kills around 10 million people annually worldwide and 600,000 people in the United States alone. Survival rates are higher when cancer is detected early. 

Seventy-one percent of all deadly cancers do not currently have a screening test. GRAIL’s Galleri test is able to detect more than 50 cancers across all stages, more than 45 of which do not have recommended screening in the United States. And, in 93 per cent of the positive results, the test correctly identified the tissue of origin – all with a specificity greater than 99 per cent.

The CEO said: “Illumina’s commitment to advancing human health by innovating next generation sequencing is unwavering. Improving early cancer detection is the most promising approach to bending the cancer mortality curve. 

“We have a deeply vested interest in ensuring that all organisations have equal and fair access to high quality, reliable and cost-effective sequencing to enable them to develop breakthrough products, such as liquid biopsy, and make them accessible to the greatest number of patients possible, quickly and safely.”

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